Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Quick anxiety update: it’s flare-up time. (Relapse time? Outbreak time? Really unsure what terms to use here, and I’m the mental health expert. Better get on that.)

I’m on my second week of dealing with early morning anxiety…..again. It goes like this: something will wake me up early in the morning. Take your pick – husband, cat, bladder. Neighbors. Traffic. Kids, but very rarely. Go figure. And then something sparks this burning fire in my chest that I can’t extinguish in order to get back to sleep. So I toss and turn in anguish and waste 1-2 hours when I desperately need sleep, but can’t get it. Lastly, my kids wake up, and then it’s all over. The anxiety slowly fades and is replaced by exhaustion as the day goes on. Makes me fantasize about going full Walden.

I’m hopeful to report that I think I’m getting better at squashing this more quickly. The past few mornings I’ve actually been able to get back to sleep and wake up for the day not feeling like such a zombie. It’s this magical combination of self-talk, physical relaxation techniques, and distracting myself by thinking about something – anything – not about me, my body, sleep, or the present moment.

(Update: I started this post yesterday, and this morning I actually slept all the way through the morning and woke up naturally and feeling rested. So there’s hope!)

Now I’m going to outline things that help me – specifically, things whose helpfulness I tend to forget – to fight this anxiety monster that creeps into my bed (or tries to) each morning. This is not meant to be preachy or self-helpy, but it’s rather to help…me. Because, just like depression, anxiety lies. It lies to me and it makes me forget what normal and healthy feels like. It makes me forget what coping skills actually work and it lies to me about there being joy in the world, and that it’s within my reach.

  1. Sleep

The biggest one by far. If I don’t get enough sleep I have very little motivation to face the day. The sleep that anxiety steals from me in the mornings sets up my entire day to be complete rubbish and it’s really hard to get back on track. That makes naps vital on some days (when I can get them), and I’ve been working very hard to get to bed at a time that ensures I’ve allowed for at least 8 hours of sleep. Even though I don’t always get it, I have to carve out room for it. Have to.

2. Exercise

I’m not a person who really enjoys exercising, per se, but this week I’ve been feeling the urge to move my body. I tend to get that feeling when I’m super angry, or when I’m jumping-out-of-my-skin-anxious. I’ve realized that when I exercise, I don’t have room for the jitters. I actually get real-time relief. That’s why I made sure I got out there and ran from zombies, even in this smokey heat wave we’re having. It felt so. good.

3. Music

I’ve written about this before, but the act of singing, like really singing, is so stress relieving and this is one that I forget about all the time. So if you see me running (from zombies) and I suddenly stop to belt out a well-timed lyric and bust a move, then you know what’s going on.

4. Laughter

This usually means social contact, but sometimes a really, really good show or standup routine will fit the bill here. I recently watched Iliza Schlesinger: Elder Millennial on Netflix, and man it was exactly what I needed. I might just watch it again. Also, The Bloggess is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I realized that I was no longer getting her updates for some reason. That has been remedied.

5. Taking time to get out of my head and space out

Having kids all day everyday, this often takes the form of me being on my phone. This usually comes with a lot of guilt, but I’m trying to tell it to fuck off. As long as the kids are safe and cared for, I am taking lots and lots of tiny micro breaks throughout the day just so I can slip the phone back into my pocket and be present for 20 more minutes when I previously thought I couldn’t. I kinda felt like I needed permission to do this, and only realized that after my therapist had given it to me unsolicited.

6. Having something to look forward to

It has been a godsend to join my local chapter of MOMS Club and automatically have events lined up for me on my calendar each month. It sounds so mundane, but it keeps me going. I’m constantly looking forward to the next thing, and being able to feel excited anticipation is a powerful enemy of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

There you have it. These are the main coping skills that I often forget are available to me.

Side note: while writing this over the course of two days, I have been interrupted a total of eleventy billion times. Another antidote to anxiety is being able to get into a flow state, and in order to do that you need to cultivate calm and stillness. Yeeeeeah. This is one reason why it’s SO HARD for me to put myself to bed at a reasonable time, because stillness only happens WHEN PEOPLE ARE UNCONSCIOUS. My point: I reeeeeally miss flow states. Please tell them to come back and visit.

 

My Seventh Mission

It was my seventh mission.

Well, scratch that…it was my sixth mission gone wrong, which kinda morphed into a seventh unexpected mission.  The goal of this mission was simple: get back to Abel Township before they close the gates.  Oh yeah, and don’t get eaten by zombies.  But that goes without saying these days.

Let me back up.  (First of all, Spoiler Alert for Zombies, Run!)

zombies

I’m the new Runner 5 for Abel Township, and I’m pretty lucky to be alive.  I was flown in from another camp because Abel was losing runners to the hoards of zoms moving through the area and they needed more.  Fresh meat, so to speak.  …too soon?

So I get the lovely task of running outside the lovely, thick, safe gates of Abel Township about once a week to do…whatever it is the people in charge need done, really.  Usually it’s some sort of supply run, or warning our neighboring camps that a hoard is headed their way.  Once, I ran out to bring an abandoned child back to Abel before the zoms got to her.  Most likely, her parent was bitten or killed while fighting off one or more zombies and then had to abandon the child before he/she turned.  Gruesome to think about, but it’s reality now.  And people are counting on me.

So, back to yesterday.  It was my seventh mission: get home!  I’m still not sure what went wrong on Mission 6.  Maybe I should confront Janine about that.  Buuut, if Janine actually did send me straight into an ambush, I’d better take it up with Sam.  Sam (or Mr. Yao if we’re following protocol) is usually my lookout while I’m out on missions.  He’s my eyes out there – warning me when the zoms are close, and if I’m still headed in the right direction.  And, well, yesterday…Sam was mysteriously out.  Janine took over.  She had me running over to New Canton, said they were letting us have some badly needed electrical equipment.

Now this was odd, because the people of New Canton have a history of…not sharing, shall we say.  They don’t play nice.  But Janine assured me she knew some good eggs on the inside.  So off I ran with her in my ear.

Well…let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan.  Once I approached my destination, I found myself surrounded by angry humans with guns…and zoms weren’t too far off either.  I didn’t think – I just RAN.

And then…everything went dark.  Meaning, the sun went down, but I also could no longer hear Abel (Janine or otherwise) in my ear.  Just static. Shit.  This wasn’t looking good, and I was getting tired.

There’s nothing more motivating me to run than the undead, I always say!  They never get tired.  I had to circle way around to steer clear of New Canton and then find my way back to Abel before they closed the gates for the night.  Buuuut, considering that it was already dark out, I figured I was screwed.

And then, I could hear him.  Faintly.  It was SAM!  He was still in his office, calling out to me!  I hissed as loud as I dared into my mic that I’m still alive, Mr. Yao!  And I can hear you!  GET ME HOME!  No response.  But bless him, he kept talking anyway.  The best part was that he told me, or my zombie self as far as he was concerned, that he’d convinced the higher ups to keep the gate open for another hour or so just in case I made it back!!  I had a chance, I just had to KEEP RUNNING!

There was only one time I came close to buying the undead farm as I blindly found my way back to Abel that night.  It’s hard for me to run entire missions without stopping to walk, and that’s okay since zombie hoards tend to move at a slow shuffle.  As long as I complete the mission and get back alive, right?  At this particular moment, I was close to Abel, I could smell it, and I was already running…when I smelled something else.  You guessed it.  To outrun them, I typically have to speed up by 10%.  But I was already running.  And I was damn tired.  I gave it all I had.  The air was cold and it started to make my heaving lungs burn, but I kept on.  The voice in my ear told me the zoms were 50 meters away…and then only 20.  By that time, I could hear their moans, and I swear I could feel their ragged breath on the back of my neck.  I didn’t turn around to look, I just ran.

Finally, to keep from getting caught, I was forced to drop what few supplies I had collected along the way.  It distracted them juuust enough, and then, when I had nothing left in me:  Runner 5!!  OH MY GOD, RUNNER 5!  YOU’RE ALIVE!  I CAN SEE YOU!  OPEN THE GATE!!  OPEN IT NOW!

Never had I heard such sweet yelling into my ear.  Thanks, Sam, for keeping me company.  And for letting me back in.  I’ll live to run another day.

Mission 7: Completed.


NaBloPoMo Day 19

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Running from Zombies

I hate running.

I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.

In high school, when we had to start running on the regular for gym class, I wondered what I had done wrong to deserve such punishment.  Surely they couldn’t make us do this?!  And then I looked around, and I found that some of my friends actually liked it. They were competitive.   They were fast.  They were nuts.

I will never understand those people.

Fast forward to now, where for the past 2-3 years, I have actually started working out with some regularity, not counting getting into yoga after my cancer surgery in 2003.  I started doing yoga a few weeks after surgery when it was a struggle to get up from a sitting position, and now I’d say I am at least at an intermediate level.  I’m pretty proud about some of the kickass poses I can do.

So, 2-3 years ago I added in some elliptical stuff.  Basically, I re-watch episodes of 30 Rock while I fake run on a very loud machine in my tiny apartment complex exercise room.  Now that my calves are pretty buff, I wanted to switch things up a little bit and try some…running.

Now, I’ve actually tried to run in the past, but it basically turns into what I like to call a walkjog.  I just don’t have the physical stamina for any sustained motion that propels me forward with any speed.  Also, being the true artist that I am, what’s my motivation for this torture?  It’s almost like I’d need something chasing me.

And with that, enter Brian, my husband-to-be, who is always motivating me to better myself and always has my well-being in mind (and only chases me in the romantic sense):

B: What are you going to do when the zombies get here?

Me: Well, if they are slow zombies, I’ll sprint past them and jam the close ones through the eye socket.

B: First, you can’t handle bodily fluids.  How will you manage to ‘jam the close ones’ accurately enough and with enough force?  Second, what if they are 28 Days Later zombies?

Me: First, you’re right.  Bloody noses make me gag, and forget about mucous.  I will use my samurai swords and just decapitate ’em like Michonne, because she’s badass and had the right idea from the start.  Second, fuuuuuuck.

B: Exactly.  Let’s start running.

——

But I can’t just run, and I certainly can’t just run with Brian.  We’ve tried this before, where he’s motivating me by saying all these sweet things as we’re running side by side, but all it does it make me giggle, and I have a bad habit of giggling when I run…and then I can’t stop giggling, which means I have to stop running.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I am a 5 year old.  And if I ever have children, I don’t know how I’ll be able to keep them alive (especially since kids bleed out so fast), but that’s another blog post altogether.

The answer was clear:  the app called Zombies, Run!

It sounded perfect.  You’re a runner, a gopher in this post-apocalyptic world where people with British accents tell you when to run to evade a zombie mob.  If you’re lucky enough to survive the mission, you pick up stuff along the way and bring it back to base.

This was it.  This was my motivation.  Plus, I could never disobey someone with a British accent.

Last Thursday, Brian and I gave this app a try.  We keyed up the first mission and started power walking down the street.  It was still a bit light out, but the sun would go down soon.  British man and lady were describing our surroundings and I was told I found and picked up some water.  And then – I could hear them.  The Brits could see the mob closing in on me and told me to run…I looked at Brian and he nodded to me as I felt an adrenaline surge and picked up the pace.  They were 50 meters away, their breathing heavy, low moaning.  Then 20 meters away.  Fuck, this was scary!  I swear I could feel their ragged breath on the back of my neck.  And then –

Zombie mob evaded.  Good job Runner 5!

Sweetness!  This was actually kinda fun!

B: Jesus, Lady!  I’ve never seen you take off like that!

Me: Well, they were going to GET ME!

And so on the mission went…we had to pass the old hospital, hoping to find supplies and rejoin Runner 7.  In real life, we had turned between two ag fields and were running between two rows of olive trees…it was much darker now.

Suddenly, the Brits could see Runner 7!  She was running to catch up with us…only she was different.  Oh shit, she’s a zombie and there’s more behind her, RUN!

So we do it again.  Remember when I said I lack stamina?  I was already pretty wiped at this point, but I gave it my all.  Seriously, I ran even after I didn’t think I could run anymore.  And this time, I was seriously freaked out because Brian had run ahead, I couldn’t see him anymore, and I could hear and feel these monsters getting closer and closer…

And I became Zombie Runner 7’s nighttime snack.  I was so pissed I nearly collapsed in the dirt.

—–

Fast forward to the day after, and I could barely walk.  Seriously, my legs would painfully cramp up if I transferred any weight to my toes.  Had this really been the zombie apocalypse, I would have died on Day 2.  Or Brian would have carried me, because that’s what husbands-to-be do in dystopias.

So I won’t give up; I plan to run more missions, because damn, it’s motivating!

Why don’t I ever see them stop to stretch on The Walking Dead?!